Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 NFL Week 4: Packers vs. Bears Preview and Prediction

The Green Bay Packers overcame an extremely sluggish and sloppy first half to escape last Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with an overtime victory on field goal by Mason Crosby set up by an amazing 73-yard catch and run by Geronimo Allison.

The Packers are, at this early stage of the season, not what they'd like to be or probably expected to be. After coming through training camp and pre-season relatively healthy, they have been beset with injuries galore from game one on. None are more concerning than those affecting the offensive line, i.e., the protectors of QB Aaron Rodgers. It's still not clear whether even one of the starting tackles will actually be able to play even some of tonight's game. And the primary back-up at tackle -- Kyle Murphy -- also went on Injured Reserve after the game. The options are thinning. Not a way you want to go into a game against what is a not-bad defensive front on the part of tonight's opponent, Da Bearz.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will have have another
of his standout games against Chicago tonight.
(Photo: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

The Prediction

Since this is a short week of preparation for the Packers, we'll make this preview short, as well. Both teams are coming off unseasonably hot games in their home stadiums, in wich they both won in overtime. Chicago has two young running backs who are trying to make names for themselves and doing a good job of it so far. The Packers have, well, Aaron Rodgers and a host of exceptional receiving talent. Defenses each have their strengths. Given that the Packers playing at home, and with their offense -- beat up as the line is -- the oddsmakers are setting the spread at 7 points in favor of the Pack.

The Pack will likely have to use their tight ends more to assist in protection than in the receiving game. If running back Ty Montgomery can get going, or one of the Pack's other young running backs can get enough carries and yards to help keep Da Bearz from teeing off on Rodgers every play, the Pack could have a bit of an easier time at it.

But we think it's going to be a close game unless the Pack can somehow jump out to an early lead...which has not really been its M.O. this season or in recent years for that matter.

We're calling it Packers 24 - Bears 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 NFL Week 3: Packers vs. Bengals

This is really pushing it, Packer fans. About 30 minutes before kickoff as I write this. Obligations this weekend precluded any earlier posting. So..apologies.

The Packers lost in disheartening fashion in Atlanta last weekend. After a defensive tour de force at home agains the Seahawks many fans saw the "D" revert to its NFC Championship game form. In short, oy.

Anyway, it's likely that today's game is just what the doctor ordered: the Cincinnati Bengals. They haven't scored a touchdown in two games, both at home. You know they have to break through at some point. You just hope it doesn't start in any major way today.

Our Prediction

The Packers are favored by 9 points. That should be the case. Plus more. Granted, the Packers are already banged up going into just the third week of the season. And a record may be set for the hottest game ever played at Lambeau Field. Yes, really. Not coldest. Hottest. So that will put extra stress on players. You never know who might cramp up at an inopportune time in the game, or who might not even be able to return. Hydration will be key today. As will the Packers offense playing to the level they are capable of, and the defense reprising their opening game effort.

We're calling this one Packers 31 - Bengals 9.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

2017 NFL Week 2: Packers vs. Falcons

The Green Bay Packers took care of business at home in the season opener, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 17-9. It was a defensive tour de force, led by Mike Daniels. If the defense plays that way every out, NFL!
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers may have to be on the move today vs. the Falcons depending upon the health of his O-line.
Our Prediction
Our take on today's game in Atlanta is that the Pack's defense will certainly better its performance in last season's NFC Championship game. Wouldn't take much.

Still, even combined with the Packers' offensive weapons -- which should enable the team to keep pace with the Dirty Birds -- there are a few key questions.

Perhaps the key one today is the health of the Pack's offensive tackles. Both Bryan Bulaga and David Bahktiari have issues and one or both may be limited if not held out today. Backup tackle Kyle Murphy held up well overall against one of the league's better defenses in last week's game. But...if Bulaga has to move to left tackle or can't go at all...? Not a great way to go up against the defending NFC Champs on their home turf. Oh, and don't forget, this is the grand opening of the new Atlanta Mercedes Stadium...or whatever it's called. The Falcons will be jacked and it's a wonder the spread isn't more than the 3 points given for regular home field advantage.

If it sounds as if we're picking against the Packers, it does have the feel of a pick 'em type scenario. Many if not most pundits are picking the Falcons, typically with from 3-10 to point margins of victory. But don't forget that Atlanta nearly lost to Da Bearz in Chicago last weekend, only saved from defeat by Chicago's ineptitude to score a TD with four plays and goal and go in the closing minute of the game.

Despite the questions on the offensive line, the Packers defense is going to give Atlanta as much as they can handle, perhaps even generating a key turnover that will be the difference in the game. The Pack's offense will take care of business and get off to a faster start than vs. the Seahawks.

We're calling this one Packers 27 - Falcons 24.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2017 NFL Week 1: Packers vs. Seahawks

Today is the day we've been waiting for since the season-and-Super Bowl-run-ending loss in Atlanta, Packers's the start of a new season and the chance to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home to Lambeau Field where it rightfully belongs.

The NFL schedule-makers have set the Packers quite a test in their first two games, at home against the Seattle Seahawks and on the road versus the Atlanta Falcons...two of the teams, along with the Pack and perhaps another team or two that figure to be in the mix for the NFC Conference Championship. More about today's game in a moment. But first, here's a bit of an addendum to yesterday's Season Prediction post. Here is the overall strength of schedule for each NFL team (based on the final 2016 records of a team's 2017 opponents):
Looking at this strength of schedule, the entire NFC North seems to have one of the lighter schedules in terms of strength of opponent. Well...c'mon. This is the NFL and on any given Sunday, etc. Unless, of course...Cleveland...or Buffalo...or the Jets.

But back to the Pack and the Seahawks today. What do we know? Or at least think we know?

Packers favored by 3

At the time of this writing, the Packers get the benefit of home field advantage in what is otherwise being seen as a toss-up game by pundits and oddsmakers. The Pack has typically taken care of business, including the Seahawks, at Lambeau Field. Of course, over the last few seasons the Pack has also gotten off to slow season starts. This season, the team can't afford that. With the Seahawks and Falcons back to back to start the season, the Packers have to at least split those two games if not outright win both, as we'd all prefer, right? Right!

We have to believe that the Packers offense will put up points, particularly with the addition of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks to the tight end corps, a focused Ty Montgomery in the backfield (who is backed up by all three of the Pack's rookie draft pick runners, just in case), and the best quarterback and wide receiver group in the league. The offensive line is a bit of a question mark in terms of depth. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga ruled out for today's game, a tight end or running back might need to be dedicated to help out that side of the field.

On the defensive side of the ball, that's the big unknown. Apparently Packers management wasn't satisfied with what they had following the preseason and picked up a couple castoffs from other teams to help beef up that side of the ball. Those players seem as if they will be an upgrade, but how much they'll contribute today after only a day or two on the practice field...? Also, it will be interesting to see how well the Pack's upgraded -- but still young -- defensive backfield holds up. The Pack's linebacker corps, assisted by defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones playing in the middle sometimes, definitely needs to up its game from last season.

Game Prediction

Overall, expectations are high. What else is new? Anything can happen in a Game 1 situation, particularly with two heavyweights trying to find and establish their identities for the season. The Packers defense has had Seahawk QB Russell Wilson's number for the last few games. That trend needs to continue today. Oh, and for a reality check keep in mind that the outcome of this first game of the season may very well determine home field advantage come playoff time. Yeah...really.

We're calling this game Packers 27 - Seahawks 24.

We hope it's not a down-to-the-wire type of game. But it could be tight and back and forth for most of the game given the calibre of these two teams. Seems as if some strange plays also happen in these duels and just one of those today could be the difference.

But it's a beautiful day in Green Bay and the Pack is ready to roll. Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Packers 2017-18 Season Prediction

Well, Packers fans...we've avoided making any posts during summer training camp and preseason. We've been slacking, no doubt. Sorry about that. But we'll try to do better as we are now at the start of the regular season.

One of the things we've done since the beginning of this blog -- quite a while now -- is to make a season prediction as to overall record. Lots of places give game-by-game predictions for the season and that's certainly a worthwhile pursuit. We do game-by-game predictions, too, but do them week by week as the season goes along; just too many factors that can affect things.

What we do at the outset though is use a game itself as a model. In short, we break up the season into quarters and give predictions for each quarter of the season. OK, yes, because of the bye week there are really 17 weeks to the season not how can we do quarters??? Hey, it makes sense to us and since this is our blog, well, that's all that matters. So here go...

First Quarter of Season - Weeks 1-4 (Sept. 10-28)

The Packers start off with the Seahawks at Lambeau Field, followed by a game at Atlanta, then at home versus the Bengals and Da Bearz. That's two tough games against likely NFC Conference contenders right off the bat. With three out of these first four games at home, the Pack's traditionally slow season starts might be mitigated. We see them taking three out of these first four games. Overall record: 3-1.

Second Quarter of Season - Weeks 5-8 (Oct. 6-29)

The Packers begin this part of the season at Dallas, then another away game at Minnesota before returning home to take on the Saints. Week 8 of the season is the Pack's bye week and they will no doubt rejoice in the week off after a very challenging first half to the season. We see the Pack going 2-1 in this stretch. Overall record: 5-2.

Third Quarter of Season - Weeks 9-12 (Nov. 6-26)

The schedule has a bit more symmetry to it in this stretch, with home-away-home-away: the Lions, at Chicago, home against the Ravens and then at Pittsburgh. We'd like to see this stretch go 3-1 but...OK, let's say it's 3-1. Overall record: 8-3.

Fourth Quarter of Season - Weeks 13-17 (Dec. 3-31)

In this final non-quarter-like quarter of the season (five games not four), the Pack has two home games and three away. They start at home against the Buccaneers, then are away at Cleveland and Carolina, home against the ViQueens, and finish the season on New Year's Eve day at Detroit. This has the feel of a 3-2 stretch, although it goes without saying (but we're saying it) that a lot here depends upon the health not only of the Packers but their opponents. Overall record: 11-5.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is set to take the team back to the Super Bowl.
(Photo: Jim Matthews / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wi, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Aaron Rodgers said this week that the way he looks at the season you win all your home goes and then split on the road. In other words, 12-4. He thought that would put the team right there in the mix. We'd feel more comfortable with that as well.

Given the offensive weapons the Packers have this season, they shouldn't have any problem scoring. The question mark, as it has been for seemingly too many seasons, is the defense. The Pack has concentrated several consecutive drafts on beefing up that side of the ball. And just this week, GM Ted Thompson added some free agents to the mix.

We have to agree with Rodgers that this is a good, very good, Packers team in terms of talent. But all the pieces still have to come together. Given that they got to the NFC Championship game last season with a glued-together defense, even an incrementally better defense could get them back to the Super Bowl.

This might be the thinking of a lot of pundits who have selected the Pack to be one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl this season. We agree.

Please check back tomorrow (game day) to see our Packers vs. Seahawks game prediction.

Go Pack Go!!!